Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hebrews 13:24 - Leadership in Early Christianity 3

13:24 Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those from Italy send you greetings.

This final verse notes that the author greets “all” the leaders in the community. This may suggest either a geographical location in which there are many congregations or it may suggest that there are multiple leaders within the one congregation. Either way, deSilva is probably right to note that this will elevate their visibility as exemplars of faithfulness in word and deed. It is important for the congregation to be aware of who these leaders are, so that they may heed their instruction in teaching and exemplary living. This perhaps supplies the reason for their specific mention here. Generally speaking, leaders are not often addressed in the opening and closing of Scriptural letters, unless there is an issue being addressed (cf. Phil. 1:1-2; 4:2-3). For the community of God’s people to experience the benefit and blessing of these leaders, they must be identified and exhorted in the manner that has preceded this greeting.

Synthesis - Leadership in Hebrews 13 
Looking back on past leaders, the author of Hebrews encourages the congregation not to forget leaders who skilfully spoke the word of God, and faithfully lived the Christian life. Appealing to these two factors, the author encourages us to think carefully about how they lived, with a view to imitating their way of life. Addressing current leaders, the author exhorts the congregation to faithfully heed and submit to godly leadership. Following good and faithful leaders will give them an advantage, and benefit them in their current situations. There is a subtle hint at the great responsibility of leaders, and the fact that they will give an account to God, which causes them to take serious their task, and causes them to realise that they are accountable for the way they lead.

If Hebrews is written to exhort and encourage those who were tempted to either fall away, or return to Judaism, then this final chapter serves to alert leaders to their job as those who are to help others by faithful teaching and faithful living, and thus help those who are struggling.  The community is instructed to heed these leaders and take careful note of their teaching and praxis.  In this way, there will be a mutually beneficial relationship between those who lead and those who follow, and God's purposes will be served faithfully. 

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